Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Wearing leather hot pants and a corset, Will Young gives it his all
By Georgina BrownWillkommen, bienvenue, welcome! Anyone who has seen the fi lm version of Cabaret with Liza Minnelli will already be humming either the signature tune or 'money makes the world go round'.
Cabaret is surely one of the most celebrated movie-musicals of all time and made Minnelli a superstar overnight. Its adult content – dirty dancing, steamy sex, pills and liquor, abortion, persecution, horribly real life and thoroughly unhappy endings – is hardly your average West End musical fayre, but that, combined with Kander and Ebb's belting score, is doubtless part of its appeal.
Six years ago, the director Rufus Norris celebrated Cabaret's 40th birthday with a powerful production that accentuated the darkest and most anarchic elements to spectacular effect. His latest makeover at the Savoy is neither as murky nor as menacing, and he has toned down Javier De Frutos's fruity, exceptionally raunchy choreography, but it's much starrier, with Will Young, the winner of Pop Idol a decade ago, in the Joel Grey role as the MC of the Kit Kat Club.
Sporting leather hot pants and a corset, Young welcomes us to the most decadent dive in 1930s Berlin, where scantily clad dancers gender-bend and high-kick, naughty not nice. Young has real presence, his eyes bleary, his grin mirthless, he manages to look both scary and scared, if not quite as manic and sinister as Grey. In one particularly good new scene, he turns puppeteer, plucking the strings of the dancers dressed in lederhosen as they sing Tomorrow Belongs To Me, transforming them into pistol-toting Nazis who smear him with a Hitler moustache.
Michelle Ryan (Zoe Slater in EastEnders) has a rather bigger Liza Minnelli-shaped shadow to eclipse and, alas, doesn't manage it. Strait-laced and sweet-faced, she looks just about as raddled as a high-school hockey captain and nothing like as bruised. And while her acting doesn't find the low notes of this tough and tipsy pill-popper, her singing doesn't hit the high notes either.
Siân Phillips fits the bill as the lonely landlady who refuses to marry the darling greengrocer Herr Schultz, who brings her pineapples, because he's Jewish and she's afraid. With good reason. The final image, in which the dancers stand naked against the wall of a gas chamber, with Young hopelessly stretching his arms around them, is truly chilling.
Until 19 January 2013 at the Savoy Theatre, Savoy Court, Strand, London WC2: 020-7492 9930, www.savoytheatre.org
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